Friday, January 6, 2012

The "LOL" Coach on Resilience

"We are not the fragile flowers that a century of psychologists have made us out to be, most people are surprisingly resilient in the face of trauma." Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling On Happiness. 

The loss of a loved one in our life is usually sad and often tragic, and it would be perverse to suggest otherwise. While most bereaved people are sad for a period of time, very few become chronically depressed. 

Psychologists state that more than half of the people in the United States will experience a trauma during their lifetime (physical assault, natural disaster), but only a small fraction will develop any post-traumatic pathology or require professional assistance. In fact, resilience is usually the most observed outcome trajectory following exposure to a potentially traumatic event. Like the Kool Aid Juice Man, it would appear that we, too, can put those defensive resiliency walls right back up.

Resilience is all around us. So, why do so many people believe it is not within their grasp? Often times, we tell ourselves how things are going to turn out before we've ever lifted a finger, dooming ourselves to live up to whatever low expectation we placed ahead of ourselves.

Take the classic, "I just know I'm going to get sick after this." 

Yep, you probably will. In case you're not following cutting edge scientific reports on neurology and quantum theory, "thoughts are physical" - so be careful what you wish for, as the saying goes. This also applies to thoughts. Be mindful of what you think. If you're thinking "this isn't going to work out" or "that isn't going to work out" or "this or that is going to happen, for this reason or that reason," before you've done anything to circumvent the event, "you're right!"

Assuming you continue along that life trajectory, that would be the most likely outcome. But I'd like to think we can change that with an easy fix. 

Do not ask other people to define your life for you. If you're not the central character or protagonist in your life, rewrite your script. Start by asking yourself, "Who do I want to be?" This is not the time to hold back by fear and self-doubt. Be bold! Like they say, shoot for the stars and if you land on the moon, you're still doing alright. Even if you fall short of your life's dream, at least you emotionally enjoyed the thought, emotionally enjoyed working toward the goal, and emotionally enjoyed the milestones along the way. The reality is, we do get further faster if we write down our dreams and script out all the scenes that would have to take place to lead to that climax. 

If your life really sucks, then you've probably got some work to do and should consult an expert. An expert can be anyone whose life is working, from your neighbor next door to your friend on Facebook. How do these people do it? Ask them. People love giving out advice. In fact, this is usually where the majority of altruistic intentions materialize. Good advice for a friend when you're not emotionally involved means that you can see probable outcomes easier without complex emotional wiring getting in the way (fear, anxiety, anger, guilt). In this respect, advice from a friend will probably prove quite helpful. 

While you don't have to do everything they say, unless you want to live as their exact clone, take to heart any tips they give that you feel might warrant revisiting in your life. 

Sometimes just the reminder of something we already know but for some reason quit employing. Of course, they may suggest something totally off-the-cuff that you've never thought of or considered. In this case, write down the suggestion and make a mind map of what outcomes could arise. If there are more possible ones than negative ones, it might be worth the effort, odd as the suggestion may sound. If you can't figure out what might happen, ask your friend to help you brainstorm some outcomes. After all, they should be able to back up any advice with tangible activities and outcomes - assuming that is that they're speaking from experience. 

Forget liposuction, herbal supplements, and power food for a moment. Forget vitamins and protein shakes, and 2-hour gym workouts. Take some time each day to just CHILL OUT. Even if you have made a total debauchery of your life, actually, even more so if you have made a debauchery of your life, you're in serious need of "me" time. 

Take 30 minutes a day to do something totally enjoyable, whatever that may be (nothing that involves pleasure at the expense of another). If you don't have 30 minutes, take a quick 5 minute pick-me-up "Think Break" and allow your mind to enjoy a comic, a funny joke, a YouTube video featuring 1980s commercials. The "cheesiness" of those videos are bound to make just about anybody laugh. Or do like I do and imagine your favorite Warner Bros character, in my case Wile E. Coyote, throwing away all those ACME kits, taking some cold hard cash, giving it to Sonic the Hedgehog, and finally catching that darn Roadrunner. Instant gratification in a simple thought experiment. Gotta love it! 

That's about it from the "LOL" Coach today. Honestly, I'm a bit tired from all this writing. So, quite frankly, I'm going to follow my own advice, set my phone alarm for 20 minutes, and go take a little nap. 

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